Epic Man: Wildernest resident racks up the vertical feet this ski season
April 24, 2012
VAIL – Charles Alexander says “yes” to himself every day.
“I wake up and decide whether or not to go skiing. That choice is simple,” Alexander said.
Alexander is the EpicMix leader in vertical feet skied with more than 7.5 million so far. Arapahoe Basin is still open, so he’s still skiing all day every day and will be until A-Basin pulls the plug.
When he retired four years ago, (he taught electrical engineering at the State University of New York), he decided there would be no wasting away on the beach or sitting in a condo watching TV.
He promised himself he’d be outside exercising at least four hours a day, skiing, mountain biking, scuba diving – anything he felt like doing. Most days he feels like skiing.
“I was completely surprised to find out he could ski 11 and a half hours a day, from the time the lifts open in the morning until they shut off the lights for night skiing at Keystone,” Alexander said.
It started simply enough. He moved to the High Country and wanted to see if he could ski three days in a row. Turns out he could, so he just kept going.
“I average about 60 hours a week skiing,” he said.
Alexander calls himself the most prolific ski bum in the world.
He’s not really competitive; he’s just having fun.
“All this happened because I was doing what I love,” he said. “The more I did it the easier it got, the better I got and the more I liked it.”
The engineer in him takes over occasionally.
For example, he calculated that the best place to get vertical on any Vail Resorts mountain is Keystone’s North Peak. The Santiago lift carries you up 1,600 vertical feet in 4.7 minutes.
He can ski down Starfire in about 80 seconds, so he can do a lap in about seven minutes.
He can pile up tens of thousands of vertical feet in half a day, which is fun. Then he can go anywhere and do anything, which is also fun.
His EpicMix account shows 121,072 vertical feet on March 8, then 120,664 on March 9.
The official world record was 4.16 million, he said, but it won’t be for long.
He submitted his application to the Guinness Book of World Records for this year’s total to be recognized as the new world record.
He has a GoPro camera so every run is on video, and he has to log everything and keep a diary.
“People tell me I must ski fast, but I’m having fun, skiing, relaxed,” he said. “I know how hard I can push myself and still come back and ski the next day – and the next and the next.”
Keystone has the best groomers in Colorado, he said. He goes to Vail for bowls, glades and bumps. He’s a big Beaver Creek fan, too. He skied A-Basin recently, with its 16 inches of new snow.
“I love them all. They all have their own strengths,” he said.
Last year, he skied 7.2 million vertical feet at Vail Resorts mountains and two million more at A-Basin.
He used to be a tournament chess player in New York and ran that circuit, renowned for his creative play with his knight, hence his email address handle “knightmoves.”
Because you write about what you know about, he’s writing a book about skiing.
He has five college degrees and lots of
“I enjoy visiting with people on the lifts,” Alexander said.
Most rides are just under 10 minutes, enough time for introductions and a few good jokes. Which leads to the question, “What do you get when you cross Frosty the Snowman with Dracula? Frostbite.”
Young people riding the lifts and gondola talk to him, calling him Mr. Epic. Then he strides by them on the way to his car when the day is done. They’re tired. He’s not.
“Some have a hard time believing I’m in my 60s. I have tons of people tell me this is what they want to do when they retire,” Alexander said.
“We’ve always known that we’ve had passionate, die-hard loyal skiers and snowboarders who live and breath skiing (or snowboarding) and who feel as if our resorts are home to them,” said Sara Lococo, a Vail Mountain spokeswoman. “Over the past two seasons, EpicMix has allowed our loyal skiers and riders to add another layer to their experience by tracking, tabulating and setting their own goals and records – either personal or in Charles Alexander’s case, a Guinness Book of World Record.”